LAS VEGAS -- Washington, D.C., attorney Michele Roberts has been voted in as the new executive director of the National Basketball Players Association, making her the first woman to head up a major North American sports union.
At the close of a chaotic Monday filled with meetings, conference calls, presentations and an array of emotions, NBPA executive committee members and team player representatives cast 32 votes in favor of Roberts as the successor to the ousted Billy Hunter, six more than she needed for election.
"Today, we started out by telling the players how monumental today was," said Paul, the president of the players' association. "We've never had this amount of players here for a meeting, to give their input and feedback. After all the hours and time [put in by] our executive committee, along with an amazing search committee that helped throughout this process, it's an unbelievable feeling to have the wonderful Michele Roberts now as a part of our team."
Paul said Roberts was flush with fresh ideas.
"One particular member from our search committee ... asked her a very tough question in the interviews and [vice president] Roger [Mason Jr.] almost fell out of his seat after she finished giving her answer," Paul said. "Even though she's a female, she's very relatable to a lot of our players. I think that's what really hit home for not only myself but some of these other guys as well."
Roberts said she would assemble a management team to run the union, perhaps even changing the union bylaws, before diving into negotiations on a new collective bargaining agreement. The players can opt out of the current CBA after the 2016-17 season.
"They've got their union back, and I'm going to make sure that they are empowered to take their union exactly where they want their union to go," Roberts said. "It's going to be a team that's going to empower them to be able to do their business as they decide.
"I am a bad woman, but I'm not that bad," Roberts said. "We are going to have a team, a very strong team, what I call a team of gladiators, that's going to help these men and women, again, go in the direction they choose to go. It's a new day. It's not a one-person, Superman, 'I've got this.' It's going to be a team."
That was exactly what the executive committee seemed to like about Roberts' vision.
We're thrilled the players selected Michele Roberts as #NBPA Executive Director! Congrats to our players & exec comm for a historic choice.- NBPA (@TheNBPA) July 29, 2014
"It really is a new day for our union," Mason said. "It started off with the players saying, 'We've had enough, we're taking our union back' a year and a half ago with Billy Hunter. We decided we wanted to be inclusive with all our players and find not only a successor but a new-age players' association executive director. We're fortunate throughout a long and rigorous process, we found one."
Roberts said she wanted to create "a system that will empower these players to run their union" and that they'd already begun talking about whether to opt out of the current CBA in 2017.